Media Release

16 October 2017

“Providing efficient and affordable public transportation services is a principal obligation of the state to its citizens and one of the ways it returns to the public the taxes they pay and the trust they placed in voting public officials. Like other social services, from health to water and electricity, handing public transportation services over to private corporation, is disastrous to the public interests particularly the commuters and wage earners (proven several times by MRT3 operations),” says Daisy Arago, Executive Director of the labor rights organization Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR).

CTUHR says that the 2-day national transport strike this October 16-17 in protest against the so-called Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization program which in effect will phase-out the jeepneys is a legitimate exercise of people’s rights and worth the public support. It says that it’s people’s right to protest and oppose the government policies that are detrimental not only to the people’s livelihood particularly the about 300,000 directly affected drivers/operators nationwide but will enable corporations to cash in on from the already poor legitimately earning their means. It strongly condemns the statement made by Atty. Aileen Lizada of Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) that the strike is a part of destabilization plot against the government as it invites attacks and human rights violations against those who support and join the strike.’

In June this year, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) launched the PUV modernization program with a new design for jeepneys that have functions of higher safety standards. Under the program, operators are required to own at least 20 Euro 4 compliant and to have market capitalization of at least P7 million. The DOTr indicates that the government will contract the profit-driven, giant multinational corporations (MNCs) like Toyota and Mitsubushi to locally manufacture the vehicles numbering to about 200,000 by the year 2020. Each vehicle will cost about Php 1.2 Million(US$24,000) to Php 1.6 Million (US$32,000), to be loaned to the driver payable in seven (7) years at 6% interest. The government, through a public bank will cover the 5% but not more than Php 80,000 (US$1,600) financing and the driver will have to pay the rest. This means that the driver will have to shell out at least Php800/day from their daily earnings in order to comply with such costly amortization. If earnings are not enough to cover the amortization, drivers will have to find for additional resources, which will inevitably increase due to interests.

“This plan is not only punitive but will definitely send the transport workers and their families to assured poverty and dangerous desperation, while handing assured profits or windfall of profits to corporations and what the Presidents are often saying as the oligarchs who bleed this country dry. Not only the corporations and capitalists with state full support cash in on the forcibly displaced transport workers, but they will also gain control on management and operations of public transportation system, a role that government must perform, but place the latter at their mercy. This is re-concentration of wealth to the already wealthy few with government as mere facilitator,” Arago averred.

CTUHR also reminded that the public commuters are often promised better services but are getting the exact opposite at higher rates, fees or fare. It cited the MRT3 operations whose `efficiency’ has been used to justify the fare increase and use of beep cards to ease the horrors of riding at MRT3. The public needs not to look far. As the e-jeep operations are privatized, corporations can increase the jeepney minimum fare to Php12-Php20 at their behest and without public hearing and as in the case of MRT, the government can only comment or appeal, but can not decide.

CTUHR also pointed out that the plan is completely ignoring the reality that today, many of the jeepney drivers are earning only Php200 - Php400 a day for 12-16 hours on the road. The option given to them is to be in a condition of near perpetual debt while working in order to pay for a vehicle that probably after seven years will already be in a bad state. “If the plan is implemented, capitalists-operators with that P7 Million capital will hire drivers to work for an income that is barely enough to feed their families. This is not just a jeepney phase-out, this is also a road to forcing people earning their keeps legitimately out of the streets, fend for themselves and out from government responsibilities and protection. Modernization is acceptable and must be supported when the peoples rights and welfare is a the center of any program,” Arago expounded.

The human rights organization also appealed for understanding and support from those whose travel has been affected by the strike and enjoined them to be in solidarity by calling for an end to corporatization and monopoly of public services. It also urged the public to protect the livelihood and jobs of those dependent on jeepney transport, and call on the Duterte administration to come up with a plan for a government-run and operated mass transport system to ease the traffic and unburden the commuters. #

 

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